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Arab-American Movie Premieres in Chicago

posted on: Jul 1, 2011

Where else but Chicago can the cinematic tale of an Arab-American man’s post 9/11 struggle unfurl to a soundtrack of wailing blues and string instruments from the Middle East?

The city “is really inviting to the immigrant community,” Egyptian-born actor Sayed Badreya said of his decision to direct his 35-minute feature here. “I fell in love with it.”

Badreya, who had roles in “Iron Man,” “The Insider” and “Three Kings,” is also the lead character in “Chicago Mirage” — a project conceived in part to help nurture aspiring Arab-American screenwriters.

The movie, which premieres for free at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Music Box Theatre, was made by and features a cast of mostly Arab-Americans.

B.B. King’s daughter, Shirley, composed three songs exclusively for the film, which follows a prominent dentist (Badreya) as he is released from prison after serving ten years behind bars. “Moustafa” was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit in the midst of the World Trade Center attacks. The broken man returns back to faithful wife and his braces-wearing, video-game playing son, trying to figure out how he can rebuild all he has lost.

“This is something new for the community. We lack a hero,” Badreya said.

Funding for the ten-day shoot was raised by the community and executive producers Nemer Ziyad, of the Cicero-based Ziyad Brothers Importing, and Wasfi Tolaymat, owner of the Chicago Fight Club boxing gym.

A Bridgeview squad car, the Millennium Park “Bean,” Alhambra Palace and other familiar local sites make appearances alongside professional and amateur actors, including Ziyad and Tolaymat.

Ziyad and Badreya, who came up with the idea for the film after they met in November, had such a pleasant experience, they have already started casting for “The Bride of the Nile,” a film centered on human trafficking.

That feature will be shot in Chicago, Cairo and Jordan.

“Expect a new voice in American cinema,” Badreya said. “We’re here to stay and we’re here to tell our story as part of the mosaic.”

Rummana Hussain
Chicago Sun-Times